English compass sundial calendar compendium

English compass sundial calendar compendium

Stock Number: 35-4151

GBP 1100.00

Antique English compass sundial calendar compendium for sale


Case diameter 78mm



Country of manufacture

UK and Ireland

Categories: Calendars, Portable Sundials, Timekeeping


This compendium takes the form of a complex perpetual calendar box with two volvelles and revolving world times indicator. Opening the box reveals a compass sundial.

The Perpetual Calendar is designed to cover 40 years from 1792 to 1832,  so it is safe to assume it was made around 1792 or very soon after. This is a rare instrument, the only other example I have found is illustrated in Michael Cowham’s A Dial in your Poke (2nd edition pp 96, 158-159). Both are this 1792 edition, they may only have been made in that year.

The top:
The central volvelle is divided with the Dominical Letter and corresponding dates of each month ( The Dominical Letter A-G is the letter of the first Sunday of any year where January 1st is the letter A). The Dominical Letter  for a given  year 1792-1832 is determined by reading from the table that forms the second band out. The first band outside the volvelle gives the corresponding day for any month.

For example: The year is 1797.  The Dominical Year band tells us the letter is A. We know the month is May, so we turn A to May. This tells us the 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th May is a Monday. The bands outside of this are  simply giving a list of Saint’s Days religious festivals and commmemorations that have fixed dates through the year.

The sides: This takes the form of a 24 hour clock, divided to half-quarters (7.5 minutes). If the hour of 10.00am  is rotated  to London, for  example, times at various places across the globe can be read off. Each destination is also listed with distance and compass bearing from London.

The base:
This takes the form of an astronomical table and volvelle. The central volvelle gives the moon’s age, phases and Southing, marked N for new moon at 29.5, and F for full moon at 15. This can be rotated against days of the week. The outer bands give the times of sunrise and sunset at dates throughout the year, and the dates at which the sun enters each zodiacal sign.

The compass sundial:
This is of typical English design for the 18th century, with a very decorative hand-coloured paper compass rose.  The gnomon is set at approximately 51.5 degrees, the latitude of London.

The box, of wood and papier-mache is in very good condition. The printed paper tables are all well preserved, without losses. The varnish is discoloured with age, with some staining on the base, as shown in the photos. The compass sundial is very well preserved, and the silvering to the brass is almost certainly original.

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GB Ganymede Antiques

Ganymede Antiques

Ganymede Antiques, established in 1992, is based in Muswell Hill, London, U.K. We specialise in scientific instruments from the 18th and early 19th centuries, with particular interest in sundials, and drawing and calculating instruments. We are always keen to buy interesting instruments, and entire collections. We exhibit at the twice yearly International Antique Scientific Instrument Fair in London. Keith Petts can be contacted at keithpetts@ymail.com

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